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(LEAD) S. Korea, Japan reaffirm trilateral cooperation with U.S. for peninsula peace

All News 17:05 April 01, 2021

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with foreign ministry's press release)
By Song Sang-ho

TOKYO/SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- Diplomats from South Korea and Japan reaffirmed the importance of trilateral cooperation with the United States for peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the region during working-level talks in Tokyo on Thursday, the foreign ministry said.

Lee Sang-ryol, director general for Asian and Pacific affairs at the ministry, and his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, held the countries' first such in-person meeting since October, amid protracted rows over wartime history and trade.

"The two directors general reaffirmed the importance of cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, and between South Korea and Japan, for progress in the Korean Peninsula peace process and for peace and stability in the region," the ministry said in a press release.

The meeting came a day after Foreign Minister Chung-Eui-yong renewed Seoul's desire to improve bilateral ties, amid Washington's repeated calls for stronger trilateral security cooperation with its two Asian allies.

At the talks, Lee reiterated Seoul's appeal for Tokyo to show more sincerity in addressing the issue of its wartime forced labor, the ministry said. The two sides also discussed the thorny issue of Tokyo's wartime sexual slavery.

The ministry did not elaborate on whether the latest meeting yielded any progress in addressing the historical issues, but noted that the two sides agreed to continue close communication going forward.

Lee and Funakoshi were also expected to discuss the issue of setting up talks between Minister Chung and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, as Chung renewed his desire Wednesday to meet with Motegi at an early date "in any format."

Since Chung's inauguration in February, he and Motegi have not engaged in dialogue either by phone or in person -- a sign of strains in bilateral relations.

Reports said that Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are in talks to set up a trilateral meeting between Chung, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Motegi in the U.S. late this month, and that it still remains to be seen whether Chung and Motegi can meet bilaterally on the margins of the possible three-way talks.

In recent months, Seoul has made a flurry of conciliatory gestures to Tokyo, as it seeks cooperation with Japan and other countries in resuming dialogue with Pyongyang and moving forward its stalled agenda for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul's fence-mending efforts also came as Washington seeks to reinvigorate its relationships with democratic allies and among them to shore up its global leadership against an increasingly assertive China.

A regular rally is under way in central Seoul to call for Japan's sincere apology for its wartime sexual slavery on March 31, 2021. (Yonhap)

A regular rally is under way in central Seoul to call for Japan's sincere apology for its wartime sexual slavery on March 31, 2021. (Yonhap)


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